Arrested Development: Criminally Underrated

Arrested Development: Criminally Underrated

*SPOILERS AHEAD FOR Arrested Development*

There is one catch. For this article to spoil the show for any readers implicates these readers haven’t seen an episode of Arrested Development. And those who haven’t seen this show will be arrested for embezzling money from a real estate company and unlawful house-building in Iraq for the late tyrant Suddam Hussein. Offenders will be locked up with T-Bone and be forced to aid George Bluth in filming Caged Wisdom.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

Arrested Development poster Source: IMDB Arrested Development

Starring the eponymous father figure Jason Bateman, underrated Arrested Development takes sitcoms off the beaten path. Dysfunction is an understatement. The Bluth family is anything but ordinary. Each member is as psychotic as the next, each with toxic traits and quirky personalities that make you wonder what devil-dealings had them put on God’s green earth.

After George Sr. is arrested for embezzling funds from his real estate empire, his most responsible son Michael (Jason Bateman) becomes the so-called ‘head of the family’. If only it were so easy. Taking in his family proves to be more than a simple favor. Michael tries to be responsible for his son George Michael (Michael Cera; and yes, that is his character’s name), but being immersed in his family only brings out his own eccentricities.

Quirky, eccentric, unconventional, peculiar, off the wall and balls to it. The only way to describe this madcap series is by watching it for yourself, which we highly recommend. But for now we’ll do it injustice and take a look at Arrested Development in pieces and prove once and for all why this show is criminally underrated.

Perfect Cast

Arrested Development’s cast was loaded with top-tier comedic talent. Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Will Arnett, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, David Cross, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter, Portia De Rossi. And that’s just the main family characters. Or should I say caricatures?

So many names, so many laughs and yet, it’s almost insane to look back and think of Arrested Development as underrated. The show premiered at a time when these actors were just far enough off the radar not to be recognized. This may have helped, because nothing stopped the cast from bringing out the best possible performances. All crazy in their own rights, this range of comedic styles brings an array of unique character traits. Awkward and clumsy. Overzealous and bold. Moody and snippy. Innocent yet slightly pervy. The writing can take a show only so far. The cast brought the show to life.

It’s hard to imagine these roles portrayed by anybody but the actors chosen. The faces, the behaviors are so in line you’ll think the crew chose the cast first, then wrote the show around their strengths and weaknesses. These actors fit their molds perfectly. And if the shoe fits, cut a piece of it off and wear it on your head as a Yamaka in your incarcerated religious conversion.

The Writing

That was no pop shot at the writers. It takes a team to make an incredible show. Someway, somehow each episode goes above and beyond, topping the absurd, silly, and outrageous scenarios depicted in the previous thirty minute segments.

Like a John Irving novel, each character is given the end of a thread. When zoomed out, the intricately constructed web of intersections becomes clear. For a TV sitcom writer to envision this web in the time allotted, let alone create it without some form of prophetic insight, is shocking. The show pulled a George Lucas on the tiniest details.

You’ll need an example to believe me.

Buster Bluth, son of Lucille Bluth, dates a woman also named Lucille which causes problems in its own right. But Buster later decides to join the army, and while waiting for the bus to pick him up he looks back at the ocean and desires to swim in the water to fulfill a lifelong dream. While swimming, a man calls out to Buster. “Watch out for loose seal!”

Buster hears “Lucille” and ignores the man only to have his hand bitten off by the loose seal. In the hospital, Lucille comes to the doctor in a panic. The doctor consoles her and says, “Buster will be alright,” but what he really meant was, “Buster will be all right” now that he lost his left hand.

Yeah? Yeah? Heh?

Well, it’s funnier if you watch the episode. And the show entirely. Because many may not have realized, this ‘punchline’ was subliminally teased throughout the previous seasons.

In another episode Buster finds his old chair shaped like a hand. It went missing before, or so he thought, but was really given away. He casually says, “I never thought I’d miss a hand so much.”

Heh? Heh?

Once again too much explanation ruins a healthy joke, so that’ll be the only moment I give away. But it’s moments like these that captivated audiences. Like watching a magic show in which a sandaled magician dancing with scarves and a knife between his teeth makes a yacht disappear.

Cult Following

Arrested Development never really garnered cable success. Many fans believe it didn’t fit the bill of typical 2000 sitcoms. When the show reached Netflix’s streaming platform and became binge-worthy, it took off as a cult classic. But still, Arrested Development remains underrated. Criminally underrated. Nearly 17 years later, it still finds itself in the shadow of the Office, Friends and Parks and Recreation.

The closest companion I can think of is It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. You watch a few episodes and either love it or hate it. Binge it or dump it. As well, both shows seem to have developed a cult following. And with relatively minimal production value, they find their success in off the wall writing and unorthodox characters that push the line without ever crossing it.

In every friend group you’ll find two people that have actually watched these shows through to the end. And these two friends will not stop referencing them, even in the face of exile. It’s this essence that keeps shows like Arrested Development in the back of your mind when you cross over it in the Netflix queue.

Is tonight the night I finally watch it?

Nah.

But you should.

Arrested Development doesn’t take itself too seriously and that’s the fun of it. Each episode is a tightly wound joke that’s unraveled for a brilliant punchline. Even if it takes two or three seasons to get to. Short episodes make it easy to digest and the show’s high brow humor gets the cogs moving more so than the average sitcom.

Dye yourself blue and get comfy in your Daisy Dukes, you never-nudes. Grab the remote (no touching!) and binge Arrested Development.

What is your favorite Arrest Development moment? Tweet us @TheHoneyPop and let Bob Loblaw know!

For More On Arrested Development:
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If you decide to leave Arrested Development in your watch list for as long as possible before it’s replaced with something else, check out these other stories about Netflix.

Featured Image Source: IMDB Arrested Development

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Joshua McGovern

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